TCC Member Spotlight: Craig Forrest, Lodi, California

Craig Forrest at work at Machu Picchu, Peru

My travels began at age 16 as a last-minute replacement for a scared traveler on my dad and mom’s Bible Lands trip in summer of 1972. Twenty-two people. Within two weeks I had a passport and visas, and we were off and running.

Greece, then Egypt, and on an Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Baghdad we sat on the tarmac and waited and waited to take off. Finally a limousine arrived, stopped at the stairs, and out came a small delegation of African leaders in business suits. Up the stairs they went and sat down in First Class. The flight attendant closed the door, and we wheeled out along the tarmac to take off. My father asked the stewardess who that was? It’s the president of Uganda, she said. We had held the plane until he arrived. (Hello, Idi Amin.) He was in Egypt to visit President Anwar Sadat. On our way to Baghdad we made a scheduled stop in Damascus. The stairs were pushed to the door, a red carpet was rolled out, and out emerged Idi Amin and his group. My dad and I watched as a full military band began to play. Waiting was President Hafez al-Assad who shook Amin’s hands, welcoming him to Syria.

We continued on to Baghdad, Beirut, Syria, Israel, Rome, and London. Eight countries! The trip whetted my appetite for travel.

I’ve been fortunate in that my advanced studies and career as a film director and producer has taken me all over the world. At age 27 I directed documentaries for World Vision’s various projects, and within a few years I had my own production company, filming a documentary series on religions of the world.

Now I was up to 52 countries. I also did lots of secular work for Discovery and Animal Planet. I set up around-the-world trips and clients would book countries and stories for production via piece meal per trip.

In 1987 my cameraman and I traveled to India to do a video on Hinduism for a client of USA channel. I had researched the Ganges at Varanasi as an important site for Hindu baptisms and rituals. So a month or two before leaving, I etched out a certain Tuesday in February that fit our schedule to film at the river. We got up at 4am and were at the Ganges by 5am, about an hour before sunrise. People were starting to gather along the ghats (stairs) before dawn. As we’re standing ready for sunrise an American still photographer walked up, introduced himself and mentioned we had picked the perfect day to shoot video. Why? we asked. The previous few days were not crowded, no one there, he said. We had, unbeknownst to us, picked a festival day. By sunrise the ghats were packed up and down the river with tens of thousands of Hindu worshippers. In 40 years of travel producing, the footage from that day is some of the best, most colorful and exotic I’ve ever directed. Worship, temples, boats, people, cows, monkeys, funeral pyres. The footage was reworked for Discovery Channel a few years later for their World of Wonder series (where I was a field producer on the story). I’ll never forget Varanasi.

Interesting to many is my work on the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race. I am bound by a draconian CBS Network non-disclosure form that limits what I can and cannot reveal about a show that is secret in its production methods. What I can reveal is something known to many loyal viewers and is easy to find on the web via a thorough search.

After a team (of two) loses a segment during The Race and is eliminated, the dilemma is where do they go now? It turns out they go to what is called Sequesterville. It’s a made-up term for a quiet resort somewhere in the world where contestants hang out until the end of The Race when they rejoin all the other partners for the final episode (and a grand wrap party). In my Season 14, Sequesterville was a wonderful beachside resort in Thailand. So, two losing contestants are escorted point to point by a casting rep who personally takes them from Switzerland or Romania or Siberia or India or China (wherever they were eliminated) to Sequesterville in Thailand, so they can hang out for one to two weeks. They are in a gorgeous place with all they need: great food, a comfortable hotel, entertainment, swimming or diving, relaxation. They have a chaperone, but anything they need a rep can get for them at nearby markets or in town. But they cannot use their cell phones or the Internet. Nor can they mingle with other hotel guests. Mum’s the word as to where they are plus their fate (how they did on the show aka when they were eliminated). Secrecy is paramount. Every few days another eliminated team arrives from somewhere in the
world (it’s a guessing game who’s next). So after awhile there is company for them during their stay. Eventually about seven teams gathered in Sequesterville will travel escorted as a group to the final stop; in my season it was Maui, Hawaii. Also? After production all teams still must not reveal who won or their own fates, until the final episode airs on CBS.

At age 47 I remarried after being a single dad for 11 years. Rebecca and I have been to about 51 countries together in 15 years. In 2016 we bought an old banker’s mansion in the wine country at Lodi, California, and created a bed & breakfast—the Bordeaux Inn. Over the last few years we are building a good reputation and seeing an increase in bookings. Come visit us!

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